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South of Cancun, the Fairmont Mayakoba creates a nature-inspired hub for a group of neighbouring resorts

Fairmont’s Maykana Beach Club on Mexico’s Riviera Maya used natural elements and Mayan design to inspire its landscape of pools, restaurants and cabanas.BRAD TORCHIA/Handout

Even though Mayakoba is only 10 kilometres from Playa Del Carmen, the gated community feels a world away from the Mexican party destination. Mayakoba’s visitors prefer the secluded luxury of its four resorts and private residences, which is anchored by the Fairmont Mayakoba.

Surrounded by almost 600 acres of pristine lagoons, jungles and beaches, Mayakoba, which translates to “village of water,” has always put nature first. But even travellers looking to reconnect with each other and the landscape crave a little social interaction on their getaway, so the property has just undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation culminating in the unveiling of the Maykana Beach Club.

Overlooking the Caribbean, the club is a short trolley or bike ride from the hotel. As the first of the resorts to expand its seaside amenities, Fairmont’s Maykana has also become a destination for guests staying at the neighbouring Bayan Tree Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba and Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya, who all convene at the artfully designed space.

“The concept for the beach club was inspired by the Mayan pyramids,” says Luis Yunta, director and architect at Room 1804, which led this redevelopment. “The design incorporates a similarly terraced approach, with multiple staggered platforms that start in the sand at the beach leading up to the roof, culminating in a unique water feature.”

Fairmont’s Maykana Beach Club, CieloBRAD TORCHIA/Handout

Blending traditional elements and artisan craftsmanship, Maykana was constructed out of materials reflected in nature and using Mayan stones, shapes and colours inspired by the crystal-clear turquoise water, soft sand and swaying palms. “Connection to nature was paramount for this redesign – being able to section the space into terraces that each offered their own experience made this possible,” Yunta says. “Ensuring that each space connected directly to the beach – whether poolside, at a fire pit, in an intimate cabana, or under a palapa – forges this inimitable connection with nature.”

Within the club, there are five restaurants named after natural elements. Choose between dining from the all-day menu in the open air at Brisas, sitting directly on the sand to enjoy a menu cooked on the wood fire grill at Fuego or making a reservation for dinner at the Greek-inspired Gaia Seafood Restaurant. If you are dining poolside or in one of the cabanas, guests can order from Aqua’s expansive menu of Latin-influenced cocktails and dishes. “A personal favourite is Cielo, where earth and air meet the sea,” says Yunta, who describes it as the perfect spot to catch a golden sunset.

“The redesigned space offers a completely transformative experience to all travellers, allowing guests to enjoy a drink or a meal but still feel like they are part of a cohesive property,” Yunta says. Back at the Fairmont, the revamp also enhanced rooms and communal spaces including the Willow Stream Spa, while reimaging restaurants including La Laguna and Tauro. For the ultimate seaside escape, request a beach front casita room with direct beach access via a private stairway that leads down to the sand. There are also guesthouses set within lush mangrove trees overlooking the canals that snake through the property. – CALEIGH ALLEYNE

Rooms from $475/night. For more information, visit fairmont.com.


In southeastern Ontario, the Black Bear Ridge golf course offers handsome spaces for group escapes

Black Bear Ridge can organize private yoga classes, in-house cocktail mixing tutorials and hikes through hundreds of acres of wooded trailsHandout

Finding a getaway spot that fits a substantially sized group can be tricky. Booking one that provides ample accommodations while prioritizing boutique hotel-level design is near impossible. But at Black Bear Ridge, a championship golf course and burgeoning resort community north of Belleville, Ont., extended families, wedding parties and corporate retreaters can all rest stylishly in short-term luxury rentals that each fit up to 40 guests.

“While our core customer base is the golf community, we are starting to attract groups from across the province who are drawn to our premium, large-group accommodations and proximity to Prince Edward County,” says president and managing partner Alex Sharpe. Those homes – called Wallace and Carter – were designed by Carlo Colacci, whose signature mix of bold colour and vintage curiosities helped define Toronto’s Drake Hotel and all of its offshoots. In the Carter house, Colacci’s scheme includes walls hung with work by emerging artists, playful lighting, groupings of retro furniture and bedrooms outfitted with bunk-style beds.

For guests who don’t golf, Black Bear Ridge can organize private yoga classes, in-house cocktail mixing tutorials and hikes through hundreds of acres of wooded trails that extend to the Moira River. For those that do, there are 27 holes plus a golf academy and driving range. For everyone in between, this season will see the debut of a nine-hole “bocce golf” course that marries mini putt and lawn bowling.

Also debuting for 2023 is the Jones House, which Sharpe calls Black Bear Ridge’s version of a luxury hotel suite. It will sleep up to four in a more intimate space outfitted with Candice Kaye Design wallpaper. In the longer term, the property will expand to include amenities for tennis and swimming as well as Black Bear Ridge Village, a campus of homes, a new club house and spa. – ANDREW SARDONE

Full house rentals from $399/night. For more information, visit blackbearridge.ca.


Claudia Gutierrez’s textile pieces weave creative storytelling into hotel spaces

Gutierrez also takes private commissions and sells her works at exhibitions and onlineHandout

This will be big year for Ottawa-based multidisciplinary artist Claudia Gutierrez. As the recipient of the SAW Prize for New Works in 2020, the Juror’s Choice Award at DesignTO in 2021, and an award from the Ontario Craft Council in 2022, her sensuous textile work has garnered attention from industry insiders. Now, she’s poised to provoke a wider audience through work for Toronto’s Gladstone House hotel and the AC Hotel by Marriott in downtown Los Angeles.

Through artist residencies in Canada and Mexico, Gutierrez has honed her inherently supple practice, which sees lengths of wool (all of which she purchases from an Oaxaca-based artisan-focused non-profit, the Cosa Buena Foundation), cotton and linen embroidered into pieces that manifest unique narratives. “My father is from Acapulco,” she says. “He always told me if you’re going to study anything artistic, you have to go to Oaxaca; it’s the epicentre of culture.” Her signature use of knots further punctuates these storylines, creating an element of sculptural corporeality.

Highlighting that she’s drawn to the dichotomies of creative output – feminine and masculine statements; the hypocrisy in what’s deemed craft versus art – Gutierrez is also taken with the power of embroidery to convey value via discernable passages of time. “When you see each stitch, you feel the time it took,” she says, adding that her next series will include documenting her technique as a kind of performance art.

In addition to her public space projects, Gutierrez also takes private commissions and sells her works at exhibitions and online. She often finds “patrons putting my pieces in their bedrooms – I’m always seeing them in intimate spaces.” – ODESSA PALOMA PARKER

For more information, visit claudiagutierrezart.com.


Korea’s Sulwhasoo distills one of its bestselling products in a sculptural vessel

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum Limited Edition, $144 at Nordstrom (nordstrom.ca) and Sephora (sephora.ca).Handout

Taking aesthetic inspiration from the porcelain, or baekja, of the Joseon Dynasty is a clever move for Korean skincare company Sulwhasoo. For the limited-edition release of its First Care Activating Serum, the bestselling product is housed in a vessel that borrows from the quiet beauty of a traditional moon jar. Instead of the serum’s signature amber cap and bold black text, this alabaster version turns the skincare product into an art object. “The flowing curves and borderless design represent the beauty of elegance and simplicity of Korean aesthetics,” Judy So, the brand’s assistant marketing manager in Canada, says, adding that the baekja inspired bottle “transcends the boundaries of language and space.”

Founded in 1966, Sulwhasoo is based on principles of a holistic beauty that lives in harmony and balance. Informed by Korean herbal medicine, founder Suh Sung-Whan developed a line of skincare products that tapped into the power of ginseng. The herbaceous approach took off and, in 2004, the first Sulwhasoo boutique opened its doors in Hong Kong. Six years later, Sulwhasoo crossed the Pacific, making its North American debut at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. It helped to usher in the current obsession with K Beauty, a skincare approach that’s broadly defined by its multiple steps and layering of lightweight products including serums and essences.

Sulwhasoo’s First Activating Care Serum is applied post-cleanse to brighten skin while helping it to better absorb the products that follow. “You can feel the traditional aesthetics and deep beauty in the light touch transmitted to your fingertips,” So says. – CAITLIN AGNEW


With its first Canadian location, %Arabica brings Kyoto coffee culture to Toronto

While the beans %Arabica brews are from various points around the world including Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia, the focus is on coffee beans grown in Hawaii, where Shoji owns a coffee farm.Handout

Despite it being a quiet midweek afternoon in early January, there is a 20-minute lineup to get into %Arabica, a new café at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Clearly word has gotten out about the Japanese import, which opened the doors of its first Canadian location in December.

The Kyoto-based brand, which has 140 locations around the world, is growing quickly. Two more Canadian stores are in the works: Union Station in Toronto, opening in April, and Whistler, B.C., opening this summer. Founder Kenneth Shoji spent the first weeks of 2023 in Egypt scouting for more new outposts. The brand’s sleek, minimalist design ethos means each of these locations is beautifully photogenic. Thanks to an almost exclusive use of white walls and furniture and a glass storefront, Yorkdale’s concession looks like a coffee laboratory. Other locations have trademark design touches nodding to the local aesthetic. A café in New York’s Nolita neighbourhood features exposed brick walls, while a recently opened spot in Marrakech includes zellige and bejmat tiles made in Morocco.

While the beans %Arabica brews are from various points around the world including Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia, the focus is on coffee beans grown in Hawaii, where Shoji owns a coffee farm. The menu is purposefully concise, consisting of only eight coffee-based options – from espresso to dark latte – and three non-coffee drinks including matcha latte, chocolate and a lemonade made using a recipe from Kyoto. The point, as is the case with many Japanese gourmet specialties, is mastery. All beans are roasted in house at each café, and a customized Slayer espresso machine gives baristas greater control during the brewing process. – MARYAM SIDDIQI

For more information, visit arabicacanada.coffee.


Bangladeshi know-how and Canadian style come together in upstart label Ahiri

Bangladeshi know-how and Canadian style come together in upstart label Ahiri.Handout

“We’re all about pushing the envelope,” says Michael Jafine, the head designer of Canadian fashion startup Ahiri. “And giving [our customer] something that helps them grow into a fashion enthusiast.” Ahiri goes about this mission with staple pieces that are both directional in style and accessible in price. Scrolling through the brand’s digital shop, you’ll find simple crew neck T-shirts, bias-cut maxi skirts and op art print knit dresses, all for less than $300 a pop.

Ahiri was co-founded by Ahnaf Ali and Sheetu Latif in 2021 as a locally designed, more sustainable alternative to fast fashion brands such as Zara and Shein. With Jafine at the helm, its first collection for fall 2022 was what he calls a “broad stroke” approach. “From mild to wild, we have to think of who our customer is, and build something with our scalability,” says Jafine, who studied at Parsons School of Design and is a former apprentice of the Row and Proenza Schouler.

Its growth is possible in part because Ahiri’s pieces are made in factories owned by Ali and Latif’s third partner, a Bangladesh manufacturer specializing in ethical garment production. The facilities are LEED gold certified, ensuring lower carbon emissions and environmental quality. Its women employees are supported through on-site childcare, free sanitary products and legal aid. “We’ve been able to push the narrative on what it means to be manufacturing in Bangladesh,” Jafine says.

Now in its sophomore season, Ahiri is nudging its customer’s sense of sartorial adventure further with an explosion of retro styled pink pieces that oscillate between hard-edged and Barbie inspired. Jafine describes it as Valley of the Dolls meets Y2K. – RANDI BERGMAN

For more information, visit ahiri.ca.

Style Advisor travelled to Mayakoba as a guest of Fairmont, and to Corbyville, Ont., as a guest of Black Bear Ridge . The companies did not review or approve this article prior to publication.

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